Kapok the Natural Pillow Filler
Kapok Genus: “Ceiba pentandra” is a tropical tree of the order Malvales and the family Malvaceae, previously separated in the family Bombacaceae, native to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, northern South America, and as the variety C. pentandra var. guineensis to tropical West Africa. Kapok is the most used common name for the tree and may also refer to the fiber obtained from its seed pods. The tree is also known as the Java cotton, Java kapok, Silk cotton or ceiba. It is a sacred symbol in Maya mythology.
The tree grows to 60–70 m (200–230 ft) tall and has a very substantial trunk up to 10’ in diameter with buttresses. The trunk and many of the larger branches are often crowded with very large, robust thorns. The leaves are compound of 5 to 9 leaflets, each up to 8” and similar to a palm leaf. Adult trees produce several hundred 6” seed pods. The pods contain seeds surrounded by a fluffy, yellowish fiber that is a mix of lignin and cellulose.
The Fiber obtained from the large seed pods is called tropical silk cotton, or kapok. The tree’s bear hundreds of seedpods filled with fibrous seeds. The tree is grown chiefly in mainland Asia and in Indonesia. Sometimes called silk cotton or Java cotton, this moisture-resistant, quick-drying, resilient, buoyant fiber has been used in life preservers and other water-safety equipment. Kapok is also used to stuff pillows, mattresses, and upholstery, as insulation, and as a cotton substitute in surgery. However, it is highly flammable, and the fibers are too brittle for spinning. Its importance has decreased with the development of foam rubber, plastics, and man-made fibers’ mass of silky fibers that invest the seeds of the ceiba tree and are used especially as a filling for mattresses, life preservers, and sleeping bags and as insulation
Kapok seed oil Oil is derived from the seeds by pressing the seeds of the kapok tree. The oil has a yellow color and a pleasant, mild odor and taste. It has similar characteristics to cottonseed oil. It becomes rancid quickly when exposed to air. Kapok oil is produced in India, Indonesia and Malaysia. It has an iodine value of 85-100, which makes it a nondrying oil. This means that it does not dry out significantly when exposed to the air. Kapok oil has some potential as a biofuel and in paint preparation.
Native tribes along the Amazon River harvest the kapok fiber to wrap around their blow gun darts. The fibers create a seal that allows the pressure to force the dart through the tube.
The commercial tree is most heavily cultivated in the rainforests of Asia, notably in Java (hence its nicknames), Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Hainan Island in China as well as in South America.
The flowers are an important source of nectar and pollen for honeybees.
This tree is the official national tree of Puerto Rico and Guatemala
Ethno Medical uses
The bark has been used as a diuretic, aphrodisiac, and to treat headache, as well as type II diabetes and is rumored to be used as an additive to some versions of the hallucinogenic drink Ayahuasca.
Ceiba pentandra is used as an additive to some versions of the hallucinogenic drink Ayahuasca.